Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Page 1366

Show & Tell: A Century of Illustrated Letters

120 years of handwriting so bad it necessitates visual aid, or why hipsters didn’t invent irreverence.

Remember pen and paper? And how they came together to produce… gasp… letters? The Smithsonian certainly does – in fact, they remember and celebrate those most memorable of letters that go beyond mere words.

Enter the Smithsonian’s archive of Illustrated Letters — a wonderful collection of tortured love letters, violently opinionated reports of current events, gloriously rich thank-you notes, a handful of far-fetched excuses, and various other forms of visually written self-expression from the early 19th century to the late 1980’s.

Although the collection is a shots-in-the-dark nightmare to navigate, with some patience and a bit of luck you may just uncover some real gems.

David Carlson to Mrs. Jackson

And perhaps a few delightful oddballs.

Philip Guston to James Brooks

Then, of course, there’s the exercise of decoding the world’s most impossible handwriting. Which, actually, is why we half-seriously suspect a number of those folks resorted to illustrations.

<br /> Warren Chappell to Isabel Bishop

The Illustrated Letters collection is pulled entirely from The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, hand-picked by Curator of Manuscripts Liza Kirwin. It’s truly a cultural treasure, but perhaps it is most valuable as a reminder to us know-it-all millennials that we didn’t in fact invent visual creativity, or irreverent wit, or sarcasm, or dark humor, or any of those “quintessentially hipster” qualities that ooze from the letters and set we so boldly like to credit ourselves with.

Plus, it reminds us of Dan Price‘s wonderful Moonlight Chronicles.

via Coudal


Monday Music Muse: Matt and Kim

How to drive your neighbors crazy, or why Columbia has nothing on the Pratt Institute.

Despite all cultural evidence to the contrary (Pitchfork best-of’s, we’re looking at you), punk/dance is far from dead. Not if Matt and Kim get any sort of say in the matter.

And say they do. The duo has been in the business of keeping the indie music scene danceable since 2004, when the two met randomly at the Pratt Institute and proceeded to play local warehouse shows in Brooklyn. By 2006, they were signed and cruising away with their ridiculously good self-titled debut album.

They are, if you will, Vampire Weekend long before there was Vampire Weekend, vaguely reminiscent of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, with a surprising touch of Clash here and there. Which is to say, rather hard to capture in comparisons. And it may just be us, but they also seem to have a weird thing about never being captured in photographs together.

Hey, we don’t judge.

Matt and Kim are Matt Johnson (vocals & keyboards) and Kim Schifino (drums & vocals). Their latest album, Grand, was released last week and is loaded with the stuff of wild, infectious, makes-you-jump-and-sing-along-till-the-neighbors-start-banging-on-the-floor-with-a-broomstick goodness.

Check it out.

Thanks, Jen


Duper Bowl: Alternative Super Bowl Logos

What if’s, football for nerds, and how the artsy types do organized sports.

There’s no question the Super Bowl is quite the garish spectacle. The tipping point of a year’s worth of football adrenaline, the obscene amounts of food, the $3-million-for-30-seconds commercials. And like any garish affair, the Super Bowl always has a garish logo to match.

Original Super Bowl XLIII LogoBut this year, The New York Times decided to explore the what-if’s of Super Bowl logo design by inviting some of the country’s most prominent designers to reimagine the logo. The resulting collection of Alternative Super Bowl Logos spans the entire spectrum of conceptual and creative vision — the modern, the retro, the grunge, the minimalistic, the serious, the tongue-in-cheek, and everything in between.

There’s the political parody…

Modern Dog Design Co., Seattle

…and the retro-minimalist iconography, our favorite.


Then we have the delightful play of color…

…and the blatant side-taking.

The rebellious grunge…

…and the hilarious nerd-centric audience expansion scheme.

The refreshing back-to-basicness of the football illiterati…

…and, of course, the inevitable tribute to the American Way of marking any occasion as worthy.

And if you, like us, didn’t quite realize what a big deal the Super Bowl logo was, go ahead and realize — The New York Times has proof.

via Creativity Online


Lights, Camera, Ticket

Time-lapsing across the Atlantic, or what airline bankruptcy has to do with ethereal photography.

Most people hate those dreadful red-eye flights. But the true sign of a creative mind is the ability to take suckiness and twist it into brilliance. Case in point: Amsterdam-based architect James Leng, a.k.a. Ettubrute.

timelapseOn a recent overnight flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco, James noticed that the lights from the cities the plane was flying over were making the clouds glow with a soft, ethereal light. So he got the rather brilliant idea of propping a camera on an empty window seat, setting it at ISO 1600, and playing with a range of exposures over the 3 hours between the Rockies and San Fran.

The end result was this stunning, hypnotizing time-lapse video, on which every light squiggle and flicker is an actual town or city the plane flew over.

Here’s to the demise of the airline industry, which makes half-empty flights the playground of creative minds.

via BoingBoing


View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I receive a small percentage of its price. Privacy policy.